CLEVELAND—Early on in Jimmy Haslam’s acquisition of the Browns, he set out to mend the fences between the franchise and arguably the greatest player to have ever played for the Browns.
“He’s not only the most famous Cleveland Brown of all time and best player that’s ever played here,” Haslam said. “One of the reasons the Browns remain so popular is when a lot of us were growing up, they followed 32 and he was their hero. So to have 32 back on our team and working with us and being part of not just the Browns but the Cleveland community is tremendously important.”
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Brown was named ‘Special Advisor’ to the Browns on Wednesday.
Haslam said Brown’s return is a “very special and significant day in Cleveland Browns history.”
Brown admits he is glad to be back with his team.
“I am excited to be back and a part of a franchise that will always be very close to my heart,” Brown said. “I want to thank Jimmy Haslam and Joe Banner for giving me this chance to return to the organization and the great city of Cleveland, whose fans are the best in the NFL and who always have supported me. I look forward to getting started and once again make difference, not just with the franchise but in the Northeast Ohio community.”
The Hall of Famer was estranged from the team since he was fired by former president Mike Holmgren in 2010. He was ‘Executive Advisor’ under the Lerner family until then. He boycotted the Ring of Honor ceremony and the inaugural ceremony after his ouster.
Brown admitted it was a tough period of time for him and his family.
“It was hard,” Brown said. “What’s so funny is I’m 77-years old, we won the championship in 1964 and my teammates and media friends are still here. Nothing has changed, but I was off the payroll. It was not a good feeling. There’s no animosity. I’m glad to be invited back.
“Respect is very important to me,” he said. “Jimmy Haslam has given us the utmost respect. There’s a clean slate and I’m a happy camper.”
Brown said it is ironic that he is back with the Browns.
“Here I am sitting next to the owner of the Browns and everyone (in the organization) who thought I had no value is gone,” Brown said. I am here and I believe in this man.”
Brown sat at the podium with Haslam, while his wife, Monique and Dee Haslam sat nearby.
Brown said the most important thing to him is respect and he didn’t feel that way with the Browns from 2010 until Haslam bought the team.
“People want to be respected and we have really gotten that from Jimmy and Dee Haslam, “ Brown said. I’ve very happy to be back. I have great respect for this city and great respect for how the fans have treated me.”
Brown said he trusts in Haslam and his ownership group, despite Haslam’s company, Pilot Flying J is under a federal investigation to wrongdoing.
“That’s my guy,” Brown said looking at Haslam. “I’ve been through 1,000 things, but I turned out to be a decent human being.
“I believe in him and I stand behind him,” he said. “The greatest thing I can say is that I’m here. The timing is beautiful. I’m here and I believe in this man. Jimmy said he’s doing his own investigation and that’s all you can ask for.”
One of the long time controversies surrounding Brown is that he threw a woman off a balcony. He stated that was ‘absolutely false’. Brown said there are reasons he is viewed as being controversial, but he has no regrets.
“Here is my philosophy on this,” Brown said. “I am a human being in the greatest country in the world. I did what I was supposed to do. It’s not about me. There are things in our country that need to be corrected. I have said things that society wasn’t ready for.
“I always want to tell the truth and not be afraid,” he said. “I hope all my quotes live forever. I try to do the right thing.”
Brown said he has no regrets, including retiring from the Browns at the young age of 29 to star in movies to not accepting a reduced role from Holmgren in 2010. At the time, he said he wouldn’t be a ‘mascot’.
Brown said he looks forward to building relationships with the current Browns players and helping in any way he can.
“The secret weapon is relationships and to be free enough to have relationships behind the scenes,” Brown said.”I do get respect and I want to use that to help. I want to help the Browns win by guiding players to become better on and off the field.”
Brown said he has the respect to help young players in many ways, despite having not played for nearly 48 years.
“I love (building relationships) and now I can officially do it,” Brown said. “Respect is a two way street. “I get a lot of respect and want to utilize it for the good for the team.”
Brown anticipates being visible in the community, frequently traveling between Cleveland and his home in California. He said he plans to meet with Rob Chudzinski and see what he can do.
“I plan on spending a lot of time here,” Brown said. “I will meet with the coach and he will give me an idea on how I can be helpful and what I can be involved in.
“I’m here to help the Cleveland Brown win games,” Brown said. “I want to have a positive effect on players in conjunction with the coach’s philosophy.”